“Free-to-play RPG” is too often seen as a dirty phrase by gamers. Not that we can blame them. The mobile game market has been flooded with mobile games that advertise themselves as free-to-play RPGs but are really microtransaction apps with a little bit of gameplay in between. If you really want a good free-to-play RPG on your mobile device, try Chromatic Souls.
Chromatic Souls is great for hardcore and casual gamers alike thanks to its implementation of not too intrusive mechanics while offering challenging and strategic turn based gameplay. Set in a mystical realm filled with magic and various fantasy creatures, you play a voiceless hero who leads a group of warriors on a preemptive strike against a potentially devastating war.
The game starts by establishing all the party members you need to be successful. There’s the Defender (read: tank), a DPS Assassin and Wizard, and a Cleric (support). There are seven other party members outside the initial four, which includes two mages (Illusionist and Warlock), two DPS characters (Scout and Berserker), two tanks (Warrior and Reaver) and one healer (Druid). These other classes need to be purchased, but don’t worry. The basic classes will make up a fine party if you don’t feel like spending any real world cash.
Chromatic Souls’s turn-based combat is the game’s biggest draw. While not overly-difficult, it takes a fair amount of strategy to use skills wisely, time cooldowns correctly and picking the best equipment for the battle. Characters are only allowed to equip three different skills at any given time, with idling, attacking and defending being the other options.
On a core-level, Chromatic Souls works. It is by definition a solid free-to-play RPG. But now we must discuss the biggest turnoff of any mobile game: how aggressive are they with pay-to-win? Based on the hours I’ve logged, it’s not at all imposing (but the game was released yesterday, so that could be subject to change). The game rarely shoves any ads in your face and you are rarely stuck with little to do.
Characters do run on stamina to get through each battle, so don’t expect to power through the campaign in one sitting. All things considered, Gamevil does a great job at keeping the stamina filled by handing out various potions on a daily basis. Inventory management is a bit clunky, but each recruited character increases storage and you can spend in-game, but even then, it will always be packed to the brim.
On top of the stamina meter, there are Gems and FP that are obtained through a variety of actions that serve as in-game currency. Gems are the premium currency as they unlock better items and are used to recruit characters. They also can be used to revive downed parties from the grave during combat, which will come in handy when facing bosses. If you don’t want to spend money, you really don’t have to as there are many milestones you are able to accomplish through your time in the campaign that will net you a big bag of Gems. Those of you who are comfortable spending real money to speed up your progress, Chromatic Souls is oddly affordable. $3.25 gets you 150 Gems up front and then 20 each day.
The game also features special dungeons that cycle daily and jump-in-and-out Raids, which allows you to score big.
Overall, Chromatic Souls is the weirdest of free-to-play RPGs because it’s almost as though Gamevil prioritized user experience over making a quick buck, or at least as much as this genre of mobile game will allow. Strange, isn’t it? Stamina does recharge relatively slowly (one per 5 minutes), but rarely will you ever feel like it’s holding you back. At times the game’s mechanics can feel a bit convoluted with is upgrading equipment, promoting character classes and skill enhancements needing a bit of a facelift, but otherwise Chromatic Souls has laid the groundwork for a potentially great series.
Chromatic Souls is available now on Android and iOS.